Self-Limiting Behavior Patterns That Stop you Selling your Photos

At Photopreneur, we believe that anyone with the talent and skill to create good quality photos can sell those photos.

But we know that not everyone does.

There are all sorts of reasons for that — that the pictures might not be good enough or commercial enough — are just two. Often though, the fault lies not in the photography but in the photographer. If you’re not making money from your photography, there’s a good chance that it’s because you’re following one of these self-limiting behavior patterns.

Not doing today what you can also put off doing tomorrow might be a good philosophy when it comes to facing the washing up or cleaning out the garage. It’s not such a great strategy when you’re hoping to turn a hobby into a revenue-earner.

It really doesn’t take long to submit images to a microstock site, to organize your Flickr stream and select your photos carefully to bring in buyers, or even take a few prints to a nearby restaurant and ask if they’d like to hang them.

Once you’ve done that, you can tackle the stuff that takes longer — like building a commercial website or marketing to wedding clients or approaching galleries. Those things take time and preparation. Do the easy stuff today though, and you should find yourself moving naturally in the direction of more sales to more clients.

Fear of Discovering the True Value of your Work
There’s always a gap between the level of pride you feel when you produce an outstanding image and the amount someone is prepared to pay for it — and instinctively we know it. It’s always much more comforting to believe that this picture would sell for a thousand dollars — were you prepared to put the effort into selling it — than to place it on the market and see exactly how much it does generates.

But the price a buyer is prepared to pay for an image isn’t necessarily a judgment on its quality. It’s merely a report on what the market is prepared to pay at that particular moment. Times and tastes change, and the price of an artistic product is affected by more than its quality. Much of it will be influenced by the way the picture is marketed and how well-known the artist was when the work was sold, for example.

If your photo reaches a price that you consider disappointingly low, just tell yourself that the buyer got a bargain… and aim to beat that price next time.

Waiting for the Buyers
It would be great if you really could just build it and wait for them to come. That only works if you’re Kevin Costner though. The rest of us have to build it… then get out there and drag the buyers in.

This isn’t quite the same as procrastination — it’s even more fatal. Procrastinators plan to get round to taking action eventually; waiters live on hope and expect something to happen without them ever doing anything but taking good pictures.

In practice of course, it only appears to work that way. Many people have put images on their Flickr streams, for example, and been surprised to receive a message from a buyer asking if they can license one of their images. Philippe Leroyer, whom we talked about here, even received a magazine commission that way as his first Flickr sale.

It may appear then that it’s simply enough to post good pictures where people can see them to find buyers. But while that’s a necessity, in general, photographers who land sales and win jobs take care to choose their images carefully. They tag and keyword them correctly and they organize their portfolio so that it looks professional and creates an impression.

If you are going to wait for them to come, the very least you can do is put up a sign that helps buyers find you.

Moving from photography-loving hobbyist to a photographer who earns a regular income from their images doesn’t require a major lifestyle change. It might require an attitude change though, and it will certainly require action. If your current behavior prevents you from taking that action, there’s nothing to stop you from changing it.

What do you think blocks photographers from making sales?

5 comments for this post.

  1. Ben Nugent Said:

    This was a really well organized and concise article. You folks have covered all of the pitfalls, and offered a simple solution for photographers just starting out, ( and of almost every small business by the way ). Keep up the good work, and thank you for the words of wisdom,

    - Ben

  2. Eric Hamilton Said:

    At the top of my list of mental road blocks is the idea that you have to shoot what sells, instead of sell what you shoot. I wrote a blog post on the topic yesterday, titled, "Going Pro - Shoot What You Love". I think trusting your own vision is the most important step a pro photographer can take.

  3. Jollence Said:

    I am totally agreed with everything written down here. I was once exactly like that. Delaying simple things or job. The attitude change also very true. Glad to read this post. Thanks


  4. Rodney Washington Said:

    I agree with so much of this article. As a photographer I know I constantly struggle with putting my images 'out there'. It's very easy to get caught up in the trap of getting the 'right' images together or getting your portfolio just perfect before you send it out.

    In truth, we'll always be creating and updating our book, so why not share what you got with the world while you focus on getting better?

    I know I got more done in the past with far less equipment than I have now, so I totally understand the trap. Back then I thought I'd be a professional when I got better equipment. I stopped waiting.

    In the end it all just boils down to good old fashion fear. I don't worry so much about the fear because it will always be there. Best advice just do the thing that you've been avoiding and fear will take care of itself.

    Good Luck
    Rodney W.

  5. teleblues Said:

    Nice story, too bad you don't mention a single way to accomplish what you are trying to explain...

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